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A Story of Love, Bagels, and Tacoma

How Howdy Bagel came to be Tacoma’s newest destination for baked goods

A bagel sandwich Howdy Bagel
Harry Cheadle is the editor of Eater Seattle.

Everyone was making bread during the pandemic lockdowns. Jake Carter and his husband, Daniel Blagovich, were making bagels. They brought them to their friends and family around Seattle and their friends told them they were really good. So they moved their bagel-making operation into a commissary kitchen, and then started selling their bagels in Tacoma.

Long story short, they became Howdy Bagel, which as of May 30 is open in its brick-and-mortar location on South Tacoma Way, just down the street from Tacoma Cemetery. But maybe you’re wondering: Why Tacoma?

Carter had become familiar with the city because his former career as a caseworker for a refugee resettlement agency meant that he spent time around the ICE detention center there. Even before the pandemic began, he had left that job. “I just got burnt out a little bit,” he says. “I was like, ‘Okay, I think I want to get back into foodservice, I think I just want to do something that is honest and simple.”

In the beginning, Carter and Blagovich sold their bagels out of Field Bar; after doing bagel deliveries in Seattle, Carter would drive down and the under-bageled Tacomans could come by the bar to pick up preorders. “My husband and I were falling more and more in love with Tacoma the more and more we were coming down here,” says Carter. “When we first started dating we would go on dates in Tacoma, and we just we love the city so much.”

They moved to Tacoma in 2020, and Carter says the neighbors came up to their fence to welcome them to the neighborhood — there’s an almost Southern hospitality in Tacoma that doesn’t really exist in Seattle, he says. And while Tacoma may not have as visible an LGBTQ scene as Seattle, Carter really values the community here.

“We don’t have a lot of gay bars in Tacoma, we don’t have a lot of queer spaces in Tacoma,” he says. “And so the spaces that are carved out by the queer community are very organic, and it just feels personal because we kind of have to seek each other out.”

They soon began selling bagels at the Proctor Farmers Market, at the occasional pop-up, and through their bagel subscription service. They weren’t necessarily looking for a permanent location, but when the perfect South Tacoma location opened up, they wound up signing a lease in February 2022.

“I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” Carter says of that moment. “I put a poster on that window of the storefront saying, like, ‘Coming summer of 2022.’ And my husband was like, ‘I don’t think this is gonna happen, Jake.’”

It did not happen. There were delays because of supply chain issues, because of a shortage of contractors who could do the work, because it turned out to be incredibly complicated to vent an espresso machine located in the middle of a historic building. Carter and Blagovich raised $40,000 through Kickstarter, they mortgaged their home, they did some of the work themselves to save money. “It really makes the space so much more special for us because we’re like, ‘Oh shit, I remember chipping out this tile,’ or like, ‘Oh gosh, I remember having to dig these trenches,” Carter says.

Now that it’s open, Howdy Bagel is part of a perhaps under-the-radar Tacoma baking community. Carter would like more people know how much is happening in Seattle’s southern neighbor, an attitude that might be a little controversial. “They have this bumper sticker that floats around that says, ‘keep Tacoma feared.’ The idea behind that is like, ‘We don’t want people to know the secret of Tacoma,’” Carter says. “They want to keep people out because they don’t want people to discover it. But I’m so proud to live here. I’m proud to be part of this community.”

Howdy Bagel

5421 South Tacoma Way, , WA 98409 (253) 301-1586 Visit Website